Why Ted Lasso’s Shoe Game Is So Strong

There’s a reason that Ted Lasso, the fictional, sunny, mustachioed American hired to manage an English football club in the Apple TV+ series of the same name, is a sneakerhead.

“It was rooted in my own enthusiasm for sneakers and sneaker culture,” said Jason Sudeikis, who has sported more than a dozen pairs of blue, orange and even red paisley Air Jordans as the show’s titular coach.

In a recent call from London, Mr. Sudeikis said that Ted’s affinity for footwear was also inspired, in part, by his longtime friend Brendan Curran, a fellow sneaker enthusiast and high school basketball coach in Lenexa, Kan., who connected with his students over this shared interest.

“It was this bit of unspoken respect and camaraderie among him and his players and his students,” Mr. Sudeikis, 47, said of Mr. Curran and his team.

While other shows like the ’90s sitcom “Seinfeld” have dabbled in delighting sneaker stans, “Ted Lasso” takes it to a whole new level. Characters have sported popular sneakers such as 2021 Air Jordan 1 Low “UNC”s, 515 Sport V2 New Balances and Onitsuka Tiger Mexico 66 “Kill Bill” shoes.

There’s an Instagram account, @nikesoflasso, where an artist shares illustrations of some of the Nike shoes featured in the show and in Mr. Sudeikis’s personal collection, and a website, Shoes of Lasso, that tracks the various sneakers worn by the show’s cast.

“We’re all so flattered by it,” said Mr. Sudeikis, who owns about 250 pairs. “It’s something that we were intentional about from the get-go, before we thought anyone would notice.”

The appeal for many sneaker collectors begins at a young age, said Elizabeth Semmelhack, the senior curator at the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto. “A common thread seems to be a desire for a very specific pair of sneakers,” she said.

Mr. Sudeikis said his love of sneakers began when he received his first pair of Air Jordans in middle school, in 1986. The shoes Ted wears are a combination of pairs from Mr. Sudeikis’s own collection (about 25 percent, he estimated) and that of Nike, which came on board as the official kit supplier for the show’s fictional team in its third season.

Mr. Sudeikis said that when he wears his own sneakers, it “drives our costumer, Jacky Levy, a little crazy, just for continuity purposes.”

Mr. Sudeikis, who originally played Ted in sketch-length NBC Sports commercials that aired in 2013 and 2014, not only masterminds his own character’s footwear, but also consults about the sneaker choices of other characters.

“People would come into my trailer, and they’d say, ‘Oh my gosh’ — it would look like the back room of a Foot Locker,” he said.

The characters’ sneaker choices have been intentional since the beginning, Mr. Sudeikis said, but eagle-eyed fans have increasingly begun psychoanalyzing them for plot clues. (In fairness, it’s not just the shoes; in Episode 2 of Season 3, a theory about Rebecca’s earrings being lassos — though in reality they were snakes — gained traction online.)

Mr. Sudeikis said the sneaker sleuthing was definitely merited.

“Jacky is incredibly intentional about that, certainly with Rebecca’s wardrobe, Keeley’s wardrobe, everybody’s,” he said. “It’s not always the sneakers, either — Ted wearing an orange sweatshirt in the Amsterdam episode was intentional because the national color for the Netherlands is orange.”

Mr. Sudeikis said he liked the sense of community that springs up among sneakerheads.

When he worked at “Saturday Night Live,” he would often walk to work wearing a pair of Jordans. “You’d meet someone who’d notice your shoes first and give you a nod,” he said. “It’s a little bit like ‘Fight Club’ — game recognizes game.”

Eliza Wilson, an illustrator in Melbourne, Australia, who runs the Nikes of Lasso account and has drawn more than 70 shoes, echoed that idea. The feedback she received from other fans, she said, provided a sense of community during lockdown periods of the pandemic.

With the series wrapping up on May 31, Ms. Wilson said she would miss the weekly routine of sketching the sneakers featured in every new episode, which take her about four to five hours each. But, she said, she may continue drawing shoes she sees Mr. Sudeikis wearing in social media posts and other photos.

Despite owning enough sneakers to wear a different pair every other day for a year, there’s one pair, Mr. Sudeikis said, that remains close to his heart.

“They’re pretty beat up at this point, but my Jordan 1s, low, they’re Carolina Blue,” he said, referring to the athletic color of the University of North Carolina. “I wear them a couple times throughout the show. I genuinely love those shoes.”

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